CNN news anchor Anderson Cooper ’89 has been chosen to deliver the address at this year’s Class Day on May 21, Senior Class Secretary Tre Borden ’06 announced in an e-mail to the senior class Thursday night.
Since graduating from Yale, Cooper has reported for Channel One News, ABC News and CNN, covering major breaking news stories ranging from the tsunami in Southeast Asia to Iraqi elections and the funeral of Pope John Paul II. His in-depth coverage of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 garnered Cooper, who has received an Emmy and a National Headliners Award, international attention. Cooper currently anchors “Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees” for CNN, and he previously hosted the ABC reality show “The Mole.”
Borden said he thinks Cooper is a strong choice because of his prominence and his youth. As a relatively recent graduate of Yale College, Cooper will be more in touch with the senior class than previous speakers, he said.
“He’s a pretty visible choice,” Borden said.
Borden said he thinks Cooper will be a more popular choice than last year’s Class Day speaker, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton GRD ’63 LAW ’64, a District of Columbia delegate to the House of Representatives.
This year’s announcement came much earlier than in previous years. Students have typically waited until early April to learn the identity of the Class Day speaker, who is selected by the Senior Class Council in cooperation with Yale President Richard Levin and the Yale College Dean’s Office. Borden said the selection process is usually delayed by the long response times of prospective speakers, but this year the Senior Class Council accelerated the process by including a response deadline with all of their invitations, disregarding those candidates who failed to respond in time.
Recent alumna Christine Lacy ’05, who heard Norton speak last May, said she thinks Cooper will be a more popular speaker, because he is more well known.
“I think when people think of Class Day speakers they think of someone they know and they have heard of … who sounds exciting, and I think that’s why people were a little disappointed with [Norton],” she said. “I don’t think many people had heard of her.”
Lacy also said Norton had some difficulty commanding the attention of the audience.
“A lot of people during the speech weren’t really paying attention,” she said. “I think it would be good to have a more commanding speaker.”
Other recent Class Day speakers have included filmmaker Ken Burns, journalist Thomas Friedman, New York Gov. George Pataki ’67 and New York Senator and former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton LAW ’73.
Although some seniors said they were unfamiliar with Cooper, others who are familiar with the journalist’s work said they are excited to hear him speak. Myles Campbell ’06 said he thinks Cooper’s youth is a definite plus. Not only is Cooper involved in current events and politics, but his career is still evolving, giving him a valuable perspective from which to address this year’s graduating class, Campbell said.
“It’s kind of nice that he’s also somebody who is a little bit younger and is on a career path still,” Campbell said. “I’m intrigued to hear what he has to say.”
John Chen ’06 said he was impressed by Cooper’s Hurricane Katrina coverage and is thrilled about having him as this year’s Class Day speaker.
“He just seems like a really dynamic reporter who might end up being Tom Brokaw in 20 years or so,” he said.
But Chen also said students who are not familiar with Cooper’s work may not be as interested.
“On the other hand, I know who Anderson Cooper is, but other people might not,” he said.
Some students who have not seen Cooper’s shows or his news coverage said they are indifferent to the choice.
“I’ve never seen him on TV, so I’m not particularly excited or upset,” Scott Caplan ’06 said.
Cooper, a political science major and former coxswain for Yale’s lightweight crew team, resided in Trumbull College during his undergraduate years.